KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge Charger) WHAT'S THE STRATEGY FOR THURSDAY'S RACE WITH YOUR TEAMMATE? "That's an interesting question. I don't know what our strategy is going to be. There are so many different scenarios that affect so many...
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge Charger)
WHAT'S THE STRATEGY FOR THURSDAY'S RACE WITH YOUR TEAMMATE? "That's an interesting question. I don't know what our strategy is going to be. There are so many different scenarios that affect so many different people and so many different things down here this year. It's not like it used to be. Everybody came down and the first two positions were set and everybody else raced their rear ends off on Thursday to get in the show. Now you feel comfortable that you're in the 500. So, do you go crazy in the Duels? Or do you focus on the 500? You'd think you'd focus on the 500, but race car drivers are idiots when they get out there. No matter what their strategy is when they get to racing they hit a bog. Every make has a few of their cars on the outside looking in. You can't help anybody. The only way to help the cars that are not in the race is to park and get out of their way and let them race for two positions. That's the only way to help them. You can't help a guy draft up there. You could take a guy all the way to fourth and if there's two star cars in front of him, he still goes home. It's a strange situation. You could finish third tomorrow and still go home.
"I don't know what our strategy is. We've got to figure out our fuel cells. We need to know how much fuel we can pick up and where we go from there. After all the talk the other night about handling... There should be a lot more rubber on the track, so the racetrack is going to be different than it was in the Bud Shootout, so there's a lot more unknowns than we've had in a long time."
THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF TURMOIL GOING ON. DO YOU HAVE TO TUNE ALL THAT OUT? "You have to tune everything else out. There's a lot of stuff going on. There have been a lot of rule infractions and a lot of severe penalties -- in some cases I think too severe. At the same time, maybe we as competitors need to take this as a sign that things are going to change this year with this car and the point system and things are going to change this year with the car of tomorrow. Things are going to change this year totally. Maybe we need to look at this as a sign that this is going to be a huge year of change and NASCAR is going to put its foot down solidly from the word go and stay that way. It appears that way from what they've done so far. I don't know what they're going to do with the 55, but you hear the rumors. With the inspection process and the things we're going to go through with the car of tomorrow, if it's worse than what's gone on here this weekend, I might take up golf."
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOURSELF? "I've lost some weight. I've been working out. I've got a trainer. I've been working out four or five times a week,
two or three hours a day. One day I woke up over the winter, and I knew I really needed to do something. I'm racing against 18-year-olds again, and I'm only going to do this a few more years anyhow. I figured I'd finish the last couple of years on a high note and then join the seniors tour. I worked out hard this winter. I'd already been doing cardio, but I started lifting weights and doing flexibility training. I'm not flexible. I started feeling better on Mondays when I started running when I got in a little better shape, so I'm sure I'll feel a lot better after this."
IS IT STILL SPECIAL TO COME TO DAYTONA? "Oh yeah, it'll always be special to come to Daytona. My grandfather has won here, even I've won a race here. The King has won here, guys that have driven for us in the past have won here. I think if you look at the amount of races and time Petty Enterprises has spent here, we've got a pretty good record. This is always a great place to start the season. I think everybody gets pumped up about it. When you're in Daytona this time of year, especially this year, you've got to say, 'I'm glad I'm a racecar driver and didn't choose to be a taxi driver in New York City. It was a tossup there for me for awhile. I think I could have been one of the better cab drivers in New York."
IS PETTY ENTERPRISES READY TO ROLL IN 2007? "Robbie Loomis and all the guys have worked hard over the winter, maybe harder than I've ever seen 'em work and maybe more focused, too. That came from the last 10 races last season. We had some momentum going into the winter. It's been a good winter, and I think everybody is ready to go. At Petty Enterprises, we're far enough off the beaten path in Level Cross, N.C., in some ways that we weren't concerned about Toyota or the car of tomorrow or all the other things people were talking about in the off season. It wasn't about what anybody else was going to do. It was about what Petty Enterprises was going to do."
DO YOU STILL GET PUMPED UP AT THE START OF THE SEASON? "I like coming back to the track and seeing Tony Stewart and standing next to the fence talking to David Stremme or Jeremy Mayfield. I miss that part in November and December. I'm social a little bit, so that's the part of racing I really miss. It's almost like starting another school year, seeing your friends again. Then the racing part takes over."
WAS IT DIFFICULT TO DECIDE TO MISS A FEW RACES TO DO TV THIS SEASON? "I'm probably going to be out fewer races this year than I was a few years ago when I was missing so many races because I just wasn't qualifying. When I first went with Felix, we ran a limited schedule. When you had a team that was capable of winning the championship, then you focused on a full season. Realistically we haven't had a shot at the championship in the past 10 years. We're trying to build this team back, but we're not to a point where we are a championship team. We've got to build ourselves back to that, so to step out of the car for me is not as big of a deal as it would be for Jimmie Johnson or Kasey Kahne or somebody like that. I don't think what I'm doing is a big deal. To be honest with you, it's just another Kyle Petty deal. It's something nobody's done. The opportunity came up. I wanted to try it, so I'm going to try it. We'll put somebody else in the car for those six races I'm out because we need to stay up in the owner's points. Hopefully we'll be far enough up that we can experiment. Dodge has a pretty neat driver development program through the truck series and the late model series. If we're 15th or 20th in points we can jam somebody in. If we're 35th in the points, then we're going to have to look at somebody that can keep us in the points. I hate to be cruel about this sport. There are 61 of us down here right now. By June when I start doing the TNT stuff, some of these guys are going to be unemployed. There might be a quality driver available out there, somebody better than Kyle Petty to put in the car."
ROBBIE LOOMIS (Petty Enterprises Vice President of Racing Operations)
WHAT'S THE STRATEGY FOR THE 43 AND 45 IN FIRST DUEL? "We don't really need to talk about it. We just need to go do it. The thing we'll have to talk about the most is just how aggressive the guys are going to be in that race. Watching the cars the other night, handling has always been first and foremost on the agenda at Daytona. Watching that race the other night, with the tire Goodyear has brought down here, it looks real hard and it's going to be real hard to get the cars driving good. That's what we're going to work hard on with the Petty Enterprises Dodges. Kyle and Bobby are both veterans, so you don't really have to talk to them much. They worked together well last year in the 150-milers and if they get the cars driving good I expect they'll work together well against this year."
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE 150? DO YOU TAKE RISKS? "It depends on how good your backup car is. We've got brand new backup cars for both teams that we tested down here, and we feel really good about them. I think you'll see 'em take the risks if it's for the win or they're running up front. If it's for eighth or 10th place, you're not going to see much risk taking. A lot of other guys have got more to gain than we do. The nice part is Bobby and Kyle are both real smart and have a lot of wisdom. They'll do what it takes to get the car up front."
ONLY A FEW DODGES WILL RACE IN THE FIRST DUEL. DOES THAT MATTER? "I don't think it matters when it comes to race time. You see Junior and Tony Stewart always working together, but it depends on how those cars are running and who is running around you. I guess this is one big thing I learned from Jeff Gordon. You have to run respectful enough and have a good enough car to put yourself in the situation where they have to help you. Nobody wants to help you, but if you're in front of them and pick the right line then they've got to push you."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF THE 150S? "I love the Thursday races. I always tell fans, especially the ladies, if they're going to come to a race to come to the Thursday races. I think it's the most exciting and the time length is just right so you don't get bored."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED SO FAR THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT? "There's always a lot of pressure on qualifying for the Daytona 500. A lot of guys go the extra mile and everyone at Petty Enterprises really put a lot of attention into details to make sure the car is right. We feel good about that. We don't feel good about our starting positions, but like I told them, if you're not on the front row it really doesn't matter. It's going to depend on what happens in that race tomorrow. That's why we're trying to put our best foot forward and make the most of the two practices today."
ARE YOUR DRIVERS READY TO SHINE? "Oh yeah. Everybody knows that Bobby Labonte is always ready. I'm excited to see Kyle Petty after the job he's done this winter. Not only physically but mentally he's prepared to have the best season he's ever had. You can look at him and see it in him. You can see the shape he's in, and I heard it in his voice when he rolled off pit road the other day. He sounded like a real team leader, being supportive of Bill Wilburn (crew chief) and the team, thanking them for their work. When you've got a driver that has that mental attitude beind him, he's hard to beat."
YOU'RE A FLORIDA NATIVE. IS THIS STILL LIKE COMING HOME FOR YOU? "I went to Lake Mary High School and every time I'm home I ride by there. It's changed a lot. It was a great school for me, and I raced at New Smyrna and Orlando Speed World a lot growing up. I got into racing when I was 12-13 years old, and I really latched on to it. Daytona is definitely home for me. I've been fortunate to have some success here. I love it. It's a natural fit for me to be in Daytona. I spent Monday with Dad and Tuesday with Mom. You can't get any better than that. My Dad and I ran into Bobby Allison at lunch the other day. Bobby and Dale Inman and The King have taught me a lot. I have so much respect for them because they've helped me come a long way in this sport. The King is feeling good about the race team, and he sees Kyle putting a lot of effort into it. That pumps up the whole team."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)
WHAT'S THE STRATEGY FOR THE 150? "I really have no idea. Whatever it is is what it is. We'll see. If the car runs good, we'll run up front. If it runs bad, we'll run in the back. It was pretty good to start the first practice and then it got really tight. We'll work on trying to get it driving better in the next practice."
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
HOW'S IT LOOK FOR THE 150? "We chose this car for the 500 because it drafts better than the one we had in The Shootout. We've been out there fighting the wind today like everybody else, and that's created a few problems that didn't exist before. We're keeping our eye on the big picture and sticking with our main setup."
DO YOU PLAN ON WORKING WITH THE OTHER DODGES IN THE SECOND RACE? "We definitely plan on working with the 12 car. We'll have to see how competitive some of the other Dodges are and what lane they like to drive in. Newman and I have gotten a fairly good feel of where we like to be on the racetrack and how we draft."
DO YOU REALLY GO FOR IT TOMORROW OR PLAY IT BY EAR? "You go for it, but yet you stay cautious the whole time. There's more to risk than there is for a reward. Our Shootout car is our backup car for the 500. It was real tight today in three and four. The wind is pushing everybody up to the high side in three and four, but that's today. We'll see what's going on tomorrow."
IS IT TOUGH TO TUNE OUT ALL THE PENALTIES? "We always focus to do the best we can within the rules. Everybody is always trying to push the envelope. Some guys got caught. Guys get caught every week. As of late, NASCAR has made an example of the guys that get caught. We just keep our nose buried in our book and try to do our job. "
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge Charger)
ARE YOU READY FOR THE 150? "We're just trying to make the Alltel Dodge faster a little bit at a time, transferring from the qualifying mode to the race mode. I think Kurt and I will work well together. It's just a matter of being at the right place at the right time to help each other out."
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE 150? "We're going to win, but I won't risk losing the racecar. I think we've got a good shot in the 500 with this car. Everybody has been fighting the wind today, but you get a sense of how good it's going to stick. I think we should be all right."
REED SORENSON (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger)
YOU WERE SECOND FASTEST IN THE FIRST PRACTICE. HOW'S THE CAR? "It's very slick out there. I saw a lot of cars in front of me and they were all over the place. I'm sure mine looked the same way. The tires are really hard. I think everybody who ran the Shootout knew it was going to be slick. Now everybody in the garage knows how slick it is. It's going to be interesting. I think the wind made 'em slide even more, so maybe if the wind dies down a little it will change things, but right now it's slick everywhere."
WILL YOU HAVE ANY FRIENDS IN THE FIRST RACE? "I think you'll work with the people around you and try to make friends as the race goes on. I hope I've got some friends out there. I guess I'll find out pretty soon."
-credit: dodge motorsports